The average Indian professional works 10–12 hours a day routinely. Add the chunk of time spent commuting to work and it’s no surprise an employee’s health problems tail them doggedly to the workplace. Whether it’s diabetes, stress, or nutritional deficiencies, a host of health niggles and lifestyle illnesses are threatening to wreak havoc on corporate India.
The good news is, as an employer, you have the power to help your people. Whether it’s little things like offering organic produce or healthier meals at the cafeteria or bold moves like Adidas’s Know Your Numbers program, where the CEO presented a health status report alongside the company’s financial results to its employees, change is certainly on the cards!
1. Chronic Conditions Like Hypertension, Diabetes, Obesity
By some accounts, 85% of private sector employees have lifestyle-related, chronic diseases. So what can companies do? If you’d like to appeal to the foodie and fitness conscious in your ranks, try what SAS did with their weekly farmer’s markets and enable access to fresh and healthy produce (and other treats!). If you like sweeping gestures and have deep pockets, go all out with a health center a la the Microsoft Living Wellness Health Center, where your workforce can get everything from health screenings to diet-related advice and coaching.
Your employees will appreciate smaller initiatives too – after all, Zappos had tremendous success with their weight management program that encouraged a healthier lifestyle. Why not champion a similar cause?
The good news is that these diseases are also the ones that can be prevented with the right intervention, lifestyle changes, and follow-up. Take diabetes, for example. A transformative program for those with prediabetes could help improve health markers and prevent them from developing full-blown diabetes. Well worth asking your healthcare partner about!
CHRONIC LIFESTYLE CONDITIONS
STEPS TO HELP
Offer yoga, meditation, and other relaxation classes at the office or remotely
Provide information/guidance on managing chronic conditions better
Run company-wide fitness challenges
Encourage an active lifestyle even at work
Offer access to health & wellness partners and experts to support lifestyle changes
Appoint fitness champions or buddies to support employees
Provide web- or app-based 24/7 support and resources
Run focussed programs for each health problem to improve health markers
Showcase success stories to motivate people
2. Stress, Depression, And Other Mental Health Issues
Every other person you meet today complains of how “hectic” or “busy” or “stretched” their lives are – all euphemisms for stress. Forward-looking employers like Unilever have set up dedicated well-being zones to help employees relax and unwind – with a Connection Bridge to catch up with colleagues and chat; a Movement Zone for massages and yoga; and a Silent Zone for breaks and rest. While you can decide whether to go so big, smaller steps can help too.
Take a cue from Rodale Inc. and have an outdoor trail for runners or an outdoor gardening space. You could turn that ignored corner balcony into a lush and pretty herb and flower gardening space – a win for you and employees wanting to unwind in nature! You could even measure the steps in the different routes around your building and share that in a fun map for Fitbit- or step- tracking employees – get their daily counts up and help them de-stress too!
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
STEPS TO HELP
Sensitize and train supervisors and team leaders to notice and better manage signs of mental distress
Offer access to counselors
Build awareness across levels so people can seek or give help
Share information on de-stressing apps/webinars/videos or offer content that could help with self-management
Provide yoga, meditation, and other relaxation classes at the office or remotely
Create relaxation spaces where employees can unwind
3. Neck, Shoulder And Back Pain And Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Anyone who spends much of their workday behind a desk is all too familiar with that gnawing ache in the neck or that stiff shoulder from hunching over a keyboard far too long. There are also the unlucky few who wind up with carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition in the hand and arm that’s a hazard of the digital workplace. Technology is here to stay, so workplaces need to be more mindfully designed to prevent these problems.
NECK, SHOULDER, AND BACK PAIN
STEPS TO HELP
Train employees on exercises that can be done at the desk
Create a fitness zone to encourage activity
Inform them about apps that remind you to stand/walk about/get active at work
Offer yoga lessons on a daily or weekly basis. Keep lessons short so more people can attend
Introduce the option of standing desks
Encourage employees to walk around or stand during meetings and conference calls
4. Asthma and Other Respiratory Problems
Breathing problems, asthma, and colds and coughs are par for the course among employees in most offices. Pollution and the “shared air” due to central air conditioning don’t exactly help either! Some environmental changes can make the office a healthier environment for people who’re already up against hours of commuting through smoky, traffic-ridden streets
STEPS TO HELP
Install air purifiers/humidifiers
Train employees on breathing techniques and exercises
Offer information and help from experts to build immunity
Encourage people to get fresh air by having meetings in outdoor spaces or well-ventilated rooms with windows. Have an outdoor cafeteria space
Create more green lung spaces inside the office, on balconies, and around the premises
Have masks handy and mandate their use in case of colds/coughs/infections. Stock hand sanitizers across the office/near doors
Mandate leave or allow flexibility to work from home in case of infectious respiratory conditions
5. Nutritional Deficiencies
We are all so tuned to diets and cutting down on harmful food that we’ve taken our eye off the right food! Produce is no longer as nutrient-rich as it once was, fad diets that don’t factor in holistic nutritional needs are as popular as ever, our time in the sunlight is dwindling, and nutrient deficiencies are no longer restricted to the poor. You could enable healthy eating at the workplace and nudge employees toward more nutritious choices, a skill they can carry forward to their personal lives as well.
STEPS TO HELP
Offer employees coaching on healthy dietary habits and smart food choices
Conduct demos on healthy cooking methods and recipes by celebrity chefs, guest chefs, and fitness experts
Offer fiber-rich and whole grain food options instead of packaged snacks in the office cafeteria. Fresh-cut fruit salad, multigrain sandwiches, vegetable smoothies, green juices can beat low vitamin B, C etc.
Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem in India. Ensure some sunlit spots in the office. Encourage short walks instead of indoor coffee breaks
Offer access to organic, nutrient-rich produce via weekly farmers’ markets; or partner with a vendor to deliver discounted produce to employees’ homes
So what’s your next move? As one survey reveals, an impressive 59% of employers polled were putting their effort behind such programs to support chronic health conditions. And there’s more happening as this wave of awareness swells across organizations big and small. The time is clearly ripe to help employees take ownership of their wellness, so lead the charge today!